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Symantec offers cloud building blocks

Filestore, not vapourware

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Symantec is offering private and public file access building blocks for the cloud called FileStore, which form an NAS head cluster in front of block access storage arrays.

FileStore is a software-based appliance, running on standard x86 servers and aggregating connected back-end arrays together. Symantec says FileStore use can scale capacity and performance, increase system performance and better integrate with its other data protection, management and security products by using FileStore instead of, for example, NetApp ONTAP 8 clustered filers.

A single FileStore system scales up to 16 nodes, and up to 2PB of total storage. It is designed to scale, Symantec says, "from entry-level configurations in affordable increments" with a simple implementation process that "self-deploys and self-configures based on just a few administrator-provided parameters."

There can be 200 million files per file system and multiple file systems in a cluster. Data can be moved by policy across storage tiers. Application servers access the FileStore cluster using either NFS, CIFS, HTTP or FTP. The back-end storage arrays are accessed by Fibre Channel or iSCSI, using block protocols, not file ones.

It utilises vanilla servers, with no added flash caches or any other special hardware. The cluster has an active-active design, with fast failover for data access. Users can non-disruptively add performance and capacity by adding nodes and storage array capacity independently. Performance scaling by adding nodes is very near linear, according to Symantec: 98 per cent for throughput and 93 per cent for IOPS.

We understand a SPEC SFS 2008 IOPS benchmark could be coming, in which a FileStore configuration outperforms the highest-performing NetApp system on that benchmark.

FileStore is positioned as the latest iteration of a sequence of Symantec storage products, beginning in 1989 with the journalled UNIX file system, then Veritas Storage Foundation in 1992, and Veritas Cluster File System in 2001. We understand that a fourth iteration - code-named S4 - will be based on an object file system. It will possess what Symantec describes as massive scale, will be highly resilient with a commodity infrastructure and have a multi-tenant architecture, meaning FileStore does not.

Offering a fine example of eating its own dogwood, Symantec uses FileStore internally, as the file-based storage architecture in its own cloud services, with more than 40PB of online storage for more than 9m active users. It claims it is "the largest SaaS storage environment in the world." It's adding to this at a 5PB/quarter rate.

Symantec uses Veritas Storage Foundation for Windows and Veritas Cluster Server to manage this backup storage. It says that, with FileStore, it: "delivers reliable, high-performance online backup services at a fraction of the cost by driving up storage utilisation rates and eliminating planned downtime required to scale performance, capacity or daily administration tasks."

The integration of Symantec's own backup and security products seems a key appeal of FileStore. It integrates natively with NetBackup and Symantec Endpoint Protection. These software products run directly on the FileStore nodes, turning it into a clustered file, media and security server. The company says this reduces performance bottlenecks, enhances security and simplifies operations by obviating the need for other server and storage resources for backup and security.

Specifically the NetBackup integration is said to provide faster backup than NetApp's use of NDMP.

What's the specific cloud aspect of FileStore? Symantec says it is "a platform-independent software solution combined with commodity hardware," and the clustering of what are file storage management controllers provides scalability to multi-petabyte levels. The cluster node failover provides the reliability Symantec says cloud storage needs. Overall it provides a cloud architecture and a cloud-like cost structure. Multi-tenancy and even greater scale, plus the extension to objects, will come with S4.

FileStore is available immediately and pricing begins at $6,995 for two nodes and two CPU sockets, pricing being on a per CPU socket basis. Its close integration with other Symantec products should give it some degree of instant appeal in the Symantec customer base. ®

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